Self Assessment Tax Return deadline: When to call the HMRC helpline as waiting times jump

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Self Assessment tax return payments must be completed and paid up by midnight January 31, leaving self-employed workers with less than week to get organised. HMRC have recently altered their penalty rules in a bid to help workers struggling with coronavirus but many still likely to need additional assistance.

HMRC does have a helpline which can be called for assistance but untied, the personal tax company, recently revealed that callers are having to wait longer to get through this year compared to the same period in 2020.

In analysing HMRC’s average call wait time over a two-week period in January 2021, in the lead up to the deadline, untied discovered both the best and worst time to call HMRC.

untied found that HMRC lines are busiest on mondays, with it proving difficult to get through in both the morning period and afternoon.

The average wait time on Mondays is 15 minutes, with it increasing to 22 minues beyond 4pm.

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Additionally, it was found that between 4pm and 6pm in the early portions of the week the lines can become so busy many callers may find themselves cut off.

On the opposite end of this, untied found it was easier to get through to HMRC towards the end of the week.

This proved to be particularly true for Thursdays, where the average wait time was 11 minutes.

They warned however average wait times could increase across the board as the deadline draws near.

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In general, untied concluded by detailing the best time to call on Thursdays is between 8am and 11am.

Between these hours, callers may only face a wait time of around six minutes.

Kevin Sefton, the CEO at untied, commented on these findings: “Increased wait times are likely to be down to two reasons.

“The number of self-employed workers is increasing significantly all the time which means more tax returns will be submitted.

“This results in more people needing guidance on how to do this.

“The other reason is that the pandemic has severely impacted people across the UK as the deadline approaches.”

Kevin concluded: “January is always a time-consuming period for the self-employed, made even more challenging this year by lockdown and home-schooling.

“Our advice has always been to get ahead and not leave tax returns until the last minute just in case something else crops up, particularly as it’s getting more difficult to contact HMRC directly.

“Also, before contacting HMRC, do check the phone opening times as they seem to be shorter than previous years.”

According to HMRC, their helplines are open between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday.

They are closed on weekends and bank holidays and their helpline uses speech recognition software, so callers will be asked why they are calling.

HMRC advises callers to use short phrases and words in their answers, with “change my address”, “question about penalty” or “late tax return” being examples.

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